Educating Peter # 19

October 28, 2012

This week Michael has suggested a song I’ve never heard, by a band I don’t know. Excellent.

The song is “Girl On A Train“, and the band is Squire. The only thing Michael told me about the track was that the band were from the UK.

Squire – “Girl On A Train (1982)

0:00-0:05 – I like how “Girl On A Train” starts, with the drummer replicating the sound of a train. It instantly reminded me of this piece of Australian rock history:

Kevin Borich Express – “Goin’ Down Town” (1977)


Focus, Peter. Back to the Squire song.

0:05-0:06 – I like that drum roll. I didn’t notice it the first time I heard it, but then I cranked up the volume and heard a nice subtle roll followed by syncopated snare hits. Very nice. (And sorry about using fancy musical terms for something that lasts only a couple of seconds in a song.)

0:07-0:19 – Ah, it’s a skinny tie song. With a cute guitar melody. And handclaps. I like it. Because it’s going on and on a little bit with its instrumental-osity, I’m beginning to think this is going to be an instrumental a la The Shadows. That’s fine by me, because I love The Shadows. (Twang!)

Unbelievably useless trivia: The rhythm guitar in the left channel is very slightly out of tune. (It sounds like the A string to me.) And the bass guitar part is unimagiative because it’s playing nothing more than what the twangy guitar is playing.

0:19-0:26 – Oh. The singing started. It’s not an instrumental. Ah well. This is the verse, and I like the vocal melody. But I’m not entirely liking the guitar mimicking it. I’d much rather hear the guitar harmonising with the vocal melody than just doubling it. That would make it more interesting to me as a listener. I’m still liking the song though.

More trivia: The bass guitar part in the verse is much more imaginative.

0:26-0:30 – I’m having a bit of trouble with the lyrics here. I don’t know if it’s the singer’s accent, or if it’s my ears, but there’s a word in the second-half of the verse that I can’t quite figure out. As far as I can tell, he sings “Won’t you tell me, you’re gang girl on the train”, but that doesn’t make any sense because boys don’t ask girls if they’re “gang”. (“Hi, are you gang girl”?) I’d love to know what he’s actually singing, but the more I hear it the more I keep hearing “you’re gang girl on the train”. Grrr. Hang on, I’ll consult the Internet…

I’ve consulted the Internet, and I’m pleased to let you know that the “Girl On A Train” available at Bandcamnp (the one I used for this post, above) contains the lyrics. Woohoo!

Here are the lyrics to the first verse:

“Won’t you tell me your name
Girl on the train
Won’t you tell me your game
Girl on the train”

So it’s “game”. That makes more sense. However, because the two distinctly separate lines (“Won’t you tell me your game” and “Girl on the train”) are sung continuously I thought it was one line. In other words, I was confused.

Back to the rest of the song.

0:32-0:45 – Oh no. This is terrible. The chorus of “Girl On A Train” began with the line “You keep on staring at me”, and then it hit me.

No. Please no.

The lyrics remind me of James Blunt‘s “You’re Beautiful“. I really don’t want any song to remind me of James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” – under any circumstances.

But it can’t be denied: both songs are about seeing a girl on a train. (Lyrics to “You’re Beautiful”.) No! Make it stop! Make the comparison stop! Please!

Allow me a few moments to compose myself…

That’s better.

Now, where was I?

Oh yeah. The Squire song.

0:46-1:11 – I liked the little skip in the drums at 0:48. It was a bit pointless, but I liked it. And I liked the quick two hi-hat open-closes (i.e., “tst-tst”) from 0:57-0:58. Frisky.

It’s awkward lyrics time: from 1:05-1:07 the singer sings the line “That would be a groove to me”. It comes out awkwardly because he has to squeeze “groove to me” in a very short amount of time, and ends up having to rush the words. Why didn’t he just sing “That would be so groovy”? Phrasing-wise it’s metrically even, with one syllable for each note. Easy.

1:11-1:26 – It’s the middle eight – and I’ve realised that although we’re only at the half-way mark in the song, I’ve typed far too much already. Gulp. Anyway, I’ll plough on and try to shorten things.

This middle eight is fun. I was surprised when I heard the background vocals sing “Choo-choo choo, cho-choo choo…” That’s silly. But fun.

1:26-1:52 – Boy, the band are really flogging that tune. It’s the guitar solo, and that’s all the guitarist is playing. From 1:39-1:52 the guitar part becomes a harmonised, twin-guitar part that I liked a lot.

Trivia: In that twin-guitar solo from 1:39-1:52 the chords are F sharp minor to D major with a little switch to D minor thorn in at the end. The bass guitarist forgot about the change to D minor, and keeps playing as if the chord is still D major.

1:52 – More frisky hi-hat work from the drummer. I like the drummer.

1:53-2:07 – A repeat of the middle eight. Nothing to report.

2:07-2:18 – One more verse before the end. At 2:16 the drummer adds a snare triplet for effect, and I like it. (I’ve always liked triplets in music.)

2:18-2:48 – Well, that was a slight surprise. It’s another middle eight. (It’s not a different one. It’s the same as the other ones, with the “choo-choo choo…”.) And this one has a lyrics problem. The singer begins this middle eight with “Do you live at home with your mom and dad?”. He crams in “Do you live at…” at such a speed that it almost becomes gibberish. (The vocals being double-tracked here doesn’t help either.) But admittedly it’s a minor thing, as the middle eight whizzes by on its way to a repeat of the main tune and the finish.


In conclusion (finally)…

I liked “Girl On A Train”, despite it reminding me lyrically of a James Blunt song I have no desire to remember.

One criticism I’d level at “Girl On A Train” is that it’s basically one good tune surrounded by a whole lot of forgettable filler. To me, that doesn’t make for a great pop ditty. (I’d like to hear at least three memorable tunes in a good pop song.)

But apart from that, I found it enjoyable in an “It’s alright while it’s on” kind of way.

And as for Michael using this series to ask me each week the following question…

“Hey Peter: now that you’ve heard that song, isn’t the music of the 1980s much better than you remember?”

…the answer to his question is, for the 19th week in a row:


Song of the day: Kevin Borich Express – "Goin’ Down Town"

April 3, 2010

Today’s song is slightly off the beaten track as far as power pop goes (i.e., it ain’t power pop), but there is a reason for me playing it.

Here’s the Kevin Borich Express with “Goin’ Down Town” (1977):


This will be less-than-interesting to you, but the Kevin Borich Express was one of the bands on the triple-bill of the very first concert I ever went to. Actually, the Kevin Borich Express was the first band on that night, so they hold the distinction of being the very first rock band I ever saw in concert. Needless to say (but I’m going to say it anyway), I thought they were great and as soon their debut album, Celebration! (1977), was released, I bought it. And loved it. (Sixteen-year-old Peter listening to album on headphones and talking to self: “Kevin Borich is a great guitarist!” “These songs are great!” “That’s great boogie!” “This is a great album!” etc.) It may actually be a dreadful album (I can imagine someone who doesn’t like it describing it as “second-rate Robin Trower“, or possibly “pedestrian, diluted, third-rate Hendrix-esque boogie”), but even after all these years I still dig it, baby.

As a bonus, here are two more tracks from the album – the opener “Snowball King” and the title track:

Kevin Borich Express – “Snowball King” (1977)


Kevin Borich Express – “Celebration” (1977)


Official website